Values-Based Selling: Image and Integrity in Real Estate

I know, I know. I get those funny looks when I open up conversations about the softer side of business development (i.e. values, ethics, principles, and mission) and how this can build and enhance the hard science of selling – including your profit margin.

Image of real estate agents
How will you represent yourself? Integrity in the workplace can become second place

But honestly, a real estate salesperson’s business is all about his or her professional image. It’s about projecting integrity, trustworthiness, and dependability. This is important to clients, and it’s been documented that it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression. The easiest way, then, to be sure your first impression as a real estate salesperson is one of high integrity is to make sure you are abiding by your own set of guiding principles.

I recently re-read the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, and I was reminded of how the four ideologies represented in the book are paradoxical in their depth and simplicity. But perhaps more importantly, they are the perfect place to start when considering the essential task of developing your own mission statement and how you will represent yourself – both in your own life and to your clients. While this certainly isn’t a course in ethics, this is a good way to begin thinking about what kind of professional image you would like to project out there in the real estate world. Because while real estate school prepares you for the book smarts you need to succeed, developing your own sense of professionalism as a real estate salesperson is all on you.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth, and take responsibility for yourself.

As a real estate agent, blame-shifting and finger-pointing is something you may have to deal with when closings get delayed, inspections don’t turn out perfectly, and offers get rejected. It helps when you affirm to yourself and others that you mean what you say, and promise only what you can deliver. Be as good as your word.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own perceptions, whether they are right or faulty. Be immune to the opinions of others, and pay attention only to what is true and what you can change.

Real estate salespeople must understand themselves well enough to temper their own emotions during a difficult transaction or when dealing with a high-maintenance client. It seems obvious that getting angry or creating conflict isn’t going to benefit anyone in the long run, but it is easy to slip up and let our emotions run awry.

WV Real Estate School
How does integrity fit here?

By understanding that even if someone yells, blames, or gossips, it’s really not about you. It’s about their own beliefs and points of view, which they feel they must defend. Even criticisms that seem directed at you really say more about the other person’s state of mind than it reflects who you are. So when it’s all said and done, what other people think about you is really none of your business, right? So don’t take it personally.

The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

Ask questions. Communicate as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.

As a real estate salesperson, you will often find yourself under pressure to have answers or get them quickly. It’s okay to be uncertain or admit to not having the right response – what’s not okay is making up answers or misguiding anyone, even unintentionally. Never, ever make assumptions when you aren’t absolutely sure. Admit when you don’t know something, and say you’ll find out and report back. Be proactive, not reactive. It’ll save you a lot of headache later.

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best.

At the risk of seeming too simplistic, or something like a trite aphorism, this agreement is arguably the most important. Doing your best as a real estate salesperson means taking action because you love it. Because you are driven by integrity and the desire to serve your clients – not necessarily because you are expecting something in return.

As Ruiz says, you are alive, so take your life and enjoy it. You hold (or are in the process of attaining) a real estate license because you said yes to opportunity. Take that opportunity and show the world what you can do with it – using the highest form of integrity you can muster. Being a whole person means to define and abide by your own set of personal principles, which ultimately become business principles. Your clients and colleagues will recognize this in you, and will choose you above the others. Remember, actions become habits, and habits become character. Let your character sell who you are, and your sales report will follow.

The Difference Between Realtors® and Real Estate Agents

I. Realtors® Defined

There is a subtle but significant difference between Realtors® and real estate agents and it’s not just something confusing to students at the West Virginia Real Estate School, Spruce School of Real Estate, it’s everyone. Said simply, just because you hold a WV Real Estate License it doesn’t mean you automatically have earned the title of REALTOR®: while both a real estate agent and a REALTOR® are licensed to list and sell real estate, only Realtors® have pledged to adhere to a Code of Ethics set forth by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). This doesn’t change the fact that both agents and Realtors® are held to the same legal standards in terms of principles and practice, but it does subject Realtors® to the enforcement of a set of 17 ethical standards that are strictly governed.

In addition, because Realtors® are active members of the NAR, they are trademarked as such, and may only use the trademark according to the rules and guidelines of the organization.

Otherwise, both real estate agents and Realtors® have gone through the process of getting a real estate license (in West Virginia, this means taking a 90-hour class and passing the state exam), and are regulated by the same state laws.

So hopefully this statement is making a little more sense now. Just because you hold a WV Real Estate License you can’t call yourself a REALTOR because after you pass the state exam you have yet to become a member to carry the REALTOR designation.

II. The NAR Headquartered in Chicago, The National Association of Realtors® is the largest professional association for real estate practitioners. Residential and commercial real estate salespeople, brokers, appraisers, property managers, and other real estate professionals make up the NAR’s membership body.

So what does this all mean? This means AFTER you get your WV Real Estate License you actually have to do MORE to become a REALTOR®. To join, members must complete a course and pass the exam testing them on their understanding of the code of ethics. Every four years after this, Realtors® must take a refresher course. Members join their local board, which gives them automatic membership in the NAR. (WV Real Estate License Professionals will join their local chapter of the West Virginia Association of Realtors:

One of the many benefits of becoming a Realtor® is the opportunity it provides for continuing education and self-development as a real estate practitioner. The NAR hosts conferences and networking events, all of which enhances an agent’s ability to gain advantage in a competitive industry. And simply by having the Realtor® designation, salespeople benefit from the inherent trust it draws from clients.

III. The Code of Ethics The Code of Ethics was adopted in 1913, and is enforced by a panel of NAR leaders who evaluate complaints involving the conduct of their members in order to take disciplinary action, if necessary. The code is made up of 17 articles each Realtor® pledges to uphold, including duties to clients and customers (articles 1-9), duties to the public (articles 10-14), and duties to Realtors® (articles 15-17).

The code is revised yearly, but one thing that remains arguably the most important is a Realtor’s pledge to treat all parties fairly and honestly. Real estate professionals should always abide by their own intrinsic sense of ethical standards, but in practice it is inevitable that there will be gray areas and blurred lines – this is when a professional code of ethics becomes a beacon to both practitioners and clients.

Overall, getting the Realtor® designation is always a smart consideration. Between the opportunities for growth, networking, and self-development as an individual and a professional, it can be a valuable enhancement to your career. See the NAR’s website for more information:

Whether you’re taking classes at Spruce, the West Virginia Real Estate School, or have been practicing real estate for years, this topic has always been muddy. People will always seem to confuse a REALTOR® and a real estate agent are and use the term synonymously when they are actually very different. Hopefully this write up helped a little. Whether you’re looking to get a WV real estate license or a real estate license in any state the REALTOR designation is a national entity and this info can be applied to your own locality.